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Letter: Embrace restorative justice to deal with crime, conflict

Embrace restorative justice to deal with crime, conflict

Imagine if Buffalo changed the way our communities addressed crime. Imagine a Buffalo where crime and neighborhood conflict were more about taking ownership of what happened rather than just “doing time.” Imagine a Buffalo where our fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers learned to support rather than hurt one another.

This is the idea behind the Erie County Restorative Justice Coalition, a group of people and community leaders changing the way communities address conflict. The ECRJC works to create a safe space where all individuals involved in a conflict can come together and discuss what happened, who was harmed and who bears the responsibility for repairing the harm. It is a process built on the idea that the community is best suited to confront an offender and show him the extent of harm he has caused.

It is one thing to face punishment such as jail time for wrongdoings, but another to come face-to-face with the person and the community you have hurt and to learn directly from them what you need to do to repair the harm. The ECRJC is working to change the way Buffalo thinks about the criminal justice system, from a negative, punishment-based approach to one of understanding and community involvement. The ECRJC has been working to build a presence in Buffalo City Court, Buffalo Family Court and in the Buffalo Public Schools. It has already worked to turn around some schools across the city, teaching students and staff how to resolve conflict peacefully and work to build relationships rather than break them down.

Now, imagine a Buffalo where our neighborhoods, our schools and our communities are safer because we stopped merely punishing people and started teaching them how to take responsibility for actions impacting all of us.

Edward A. Sundquist